Protestors Call for Renewed Boycott of Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel protest - H - 2016
Patrick T. Fallon/Special to The Hollywood Reporter

Activists, former hotel staff and Unite Here members gathered in front of the iconic hotel on Oct. 15 to underline that the boycott of the hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei remains in effect.

Protestors gathered outside the Beverly Hills Hotel on Saturday and renewed their calls for Hollywood to boycott the luxury hotel over the politics of the owner, the Sultan of Brunei. 

In 2014, the Sultan began the implementation of strict Islamic sharia law in his small, oil-rich kingdom, which called for the “stoning of gays and lesbians … and the public flogging of women,” according to the protest’s organizer, James Duke Mason. Mason reiterated that little had changed in the last two years and Brunei still has the same laws in place. “With short attention spans, people forget,” he said of the need to revive boycotting efforts. “I don’t blame them. … there are a lot of other things to worry about. But the issue remains.”

Along with state and local politicians, the protesters included members of the LGBTQ community, former employees of the Dorchester Collection hotels, and members of Unite Here! Local 11. They took to the corner of Sunset Boulevard and North Beverly Drive holding signs, including #StopTheSultan, as multiple motorists drove by honking in support. “The boycott has not ended; the circumstances of it have not changed,” said State Assemblymember Richard Bloom to the crowd of about 40 people gathered in Will Rogers Memorial Park, across from the Beverly Hills landmark known widely as the "Pink Palace."

The boycott, which started in May 2014, has called for the abolishment of Brunei’s sharia law and the Sultan's divestment from the hotel group. (The Sultan’s Brunei Investment Agency is the primary owner of the Dorchester Collection.) After the announced boycott, entertainment industry members and events (including the annual Night Before the Oscars party benefiting the MPTF) moved away from the Beverly Hills Hotel to other venues. But over the past year, some in the industry slowly have been returning to the Beverly Hills Hotel for meals or stays.

Former Speaker of the California State Assembly John Perez said, “It’s important that everyone in the broader Los Angeles community stands up and doesn’t spend their hard-earned money at these hotels.” He said that Elton John and Oprah Winfrey are among those who continue to avoid patronizing the hotel group, and that Virgin’s Richard Branson declines to give corporate resources to the group.

Mason, a member of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board whose family has been going to the Beverly Hills Hotel for 70 years, is particularly saddened to see the Beverly Hills institution ensnared in this quagmire. (Mason’s grandfather is British actor James Mason, and his parents are The Go-Go’s singer Belinda Carlisle and producer Morgan Mason.) “I grew up in France. When we were in L.A., we’d stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel,” he said. “It’s a real test of my principles to not go there.”

Mason stressed that those who frequent the hotel’s Polo Lounge are in essence saying, “I care more about my McCarthy Salad than the brutal torture of innocent people. There is just no excuse for that.” (Mason also wrote an op-ed in THR on the subject on Oct. 14.)

Mason and others said that the hotel group is compensating hotel staff for lost tips, and that the boycott also applies to the Hotel Bel-Air, even though it’s “more hidden away,” plus the Dorchester’s other properties. Along with the two Los Angeles-based hotels, the Dorchester Collection includes such high-profile luxury hotels as London’s The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane, Paris’ Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee, Milan’s Hotel Principe di Savoia, and Hotel Eden in Rome.

Assemblymember Bloom noted, “As far as we know, no one has been put to death [under this law in Brunei]. But imagine, as a member of the LGBT community there, you can be summoned forward and executed.”

According to various news sources, the Sultan has ordered Sharia Penal Code to be enacted in the Southeast Asian nation in three phases, with the third “death penalty” phase coming into effect in 2018. West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister concluded, “Let’s be done with the hate, and let’s promote freedom, equality and love.”